Features, Heritage

1984 LTL is larger than life

“I have a 9-0, but mine has a few more zeros,” said Roy Ikin with a smile, highlighting just one of the many differences between his classic 1984 Ford LTL 9000 and the current-era Kenworth T9 range. 

It would also be fair to say that there would be few 39-year-old trucks still working hard and looking as sharp as Roy’s, which was on display at the Rocklea Heritage Truck Show in mid-May.

Based at Homebush, just out of Mackay, Roy and his wife Vicki now own the big-bonneted Ford, with the LTL the truck in which Roy began his career behind the wheel over 30 years ago, running up and down the highway from North Queensland for Trevor Jenkin. 

There is plenty of ‘Ol Skool Cool’ to like about the LTL.

“It’s the first truck I drove out on the highway, I used to run NQX into Townsville and unload, then run up to Mareeba to load spuds and come back down and then Trevor would overnight it through to Sydney.  He owned it for about thirty years – he got crook and his wife Virginia asked us to buy it and take care of it, so we did and we have had it now for about five years,” Roy explained.

Over its working life the Ford has seen a few changes both on the exterior and under the bonnet and cab. Having run Cummins 400 and 444 powerplants in the past, today a Detroit Diesel Series 60 rated to 575 horsepower provides plenty of punch, with the original 13 speed Roadranger swapped out in favour of an 18-speed double overdrive unit, with the original six-rod suspension still in place. Rated to 90 tonne, the Ford is well specced for the job.  

“We run mainly through North Queensland as a double road train, we have a step-deck and a flat top, as well as a set of tippers. I have done a bit of powder tanker work as a pocket road train lately and we have also been doing a lot of crane work recently carting the boom sections and counterweights. It’s well set up for what we do, and the more weight you get on the six-rod the more it likes it. Doubles suit us, as you can’t run triples into Mackay,” Roy said.

Originally blue in colour, the truck was resprayed in its current hue by Trevor Jenkin before his illness saw the Ford parked in a shed for a couple of years. Under the ownership of the Ikins the truck has had the magic touch of signwriter Gordon McCracken on the lines and scrollwork.

“We took the tanks off it as they weren’t done, and we got Gordon to do the paint, so we put it in the shed and he went to town on it,” Roy said.

“He did all the work by hand and kept the style of it true to that era – we didn’t want to make it a new truck. The sleeper is now a Truck Art 60 inch, originally it had a 30-inch Sleekline bunk – its known as a ‘Coonabarabran’ sleeper because it has the big doors on the sides.”

With the larger sleeper the exhausts were relocated from the rear to the side, and the truck has seen some of the alloy highlights replaced in favour of stainless steel.

“It goes to work every day, so I don’t want to spend all weekend polishing it!” Roy said with a grin.

Roy and Vicki had ventured south to Brisbane for a few days to get a new steering box and some new tyres fitted to the Ford, also taking in the opportunity to display the big LTL to the considerable number of visitors to the Rocklea Showground across the weekend, allowing for some downtime. 

“We usually do the Convoy for Kids and take the truck to shows to catch up and have a chat. It’s a social thing, not who has a better truck or this or that, it’s a fraternity…most blokes you pass on the road you chat to for a couple of minutes and that’s it, this is a chance to catch up, unwind and meet new people,” said Roy.

It may be closing in on 40 years, but this Ford LTL is still earning its keep.

With the passage of time, today there are few LTLs on the road working regularly, but the truck was one of the flagship units for many fleets such as Lindsay Brothers among others in the 1980s.

“Back then they were $50,000 cheaper than a W-Model and they had the same running gear, they all ran 3:7 diffs and 13 speeds so they were all 100 mile-an-hour trucks,” Roy explained.

“There were a lot on express freight and that’s why you don’t see many around anymore because a lot of them ended up in the trees. Back then they got in and they sent them! There are very few of them working these days.”

With the LTL not too far off the 40-year milestone and still out on the highway every week, it would appear that there are still a few miles left to be made before the truck heads off into retirement.

“Virginia Jenkins asked me to look after it, so I have tried to do that. She still holds her own on the road and nothing makes me happier than when I pull out and bag up a 909 and grab another cog. That gets a bit of notice!” Roy concluded.

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